With two sites at either end of London, The Zetter Townhouses are independently-owned and gloriously-furnished boutique hotels with lavish bars to boot. Boasting 13 unique rooms, a cocktail menu that borders on alchemy, and a taxidermied kangaroo in a pair of boxing gloves, their Clerkenwell hotel is an endearingly oddball monument to passion, complexity and eccentric theatricality
Featured Libation: The Flintlock
It’s a gin riff on the classic Sazerac, what’s not to love? The usual rye/brandy split is replaced by gin (I mean, this is London after all) while the dandelion & burdock bitters make for a floral alternative to Peychaud’s aniseed kick. A Fernet Branca wash keeps it all in check, never letting the sweetness of the Chinatown-sourced gunpowder tea tincture overstep its mark.
The Ace in the Hole: Tony Conigliaro
Widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s foremost drinks creators, Tony Conigliaro and his consultancy team – Drink Factory – have created a menu that truly sings of Zetter’s London heritage.
Traditional recipes for tinctures, bitters and herbal remedies have inspired Zetter’s cocktails and homemade cordials and alike.
Conigliaro understands that the humble cocktail has just seconds to make an impact, and with that knowledge, he has elevated cocktail-making from a craft to a science. Pinpoint precision and flawless consistency make for a singular sensory experience that tells a rich story in a single sip. EJ
The addition of a flashwool garnish adds a welcome touch of pyromaniacal flare to an otherwise understated concoction. One spark from the bartender’s lighter and the garnish disappears in one fiery flourish. Up in smoke, gone in a flash, and down in one: The Flintlock cocktail not only adds to the charm of Zetter’s cocktail list, but also serves as a blazing celebration of the classic cocktail’s endless malleability. EJ
Get the Round in: Guy Mazuch
Quickfire questions answered in the time it takes The Zetter Townhouse’s head bartender to serve up two ice-cold shots of Fernet Branca
I noticed a kangaroo in the dining room, what’s his story?
Oh, you mean Willie? Don’t mind him, he mostly minds his own business. I’ve known guests to spend entire evenings drinking away in the dining room without even noticing he’s there.
Who makes your overshirts?
The fine folks at Carrier Company. They’re based in Norfolk and specialise in good old, hard-wearing workwear. It’s had a little fine-tuning at the tailors across the street but it’s aging beautifully.
So, you shake your Sazerac’s. What’s the deal with that?
Sacrilege for most, I know, but we honestly think it tastes better. Sure, I could wax lyrical about the science of aeration and ice contact but honestly, it comes down to personal preference. And a shaken Sazerac is ours!
I also notice your menu refrains from going into too much detail about its base spirits.
Is there a reason for that?
There is! There’s an awful lot of preconceptions around certain spirits that we wanted to do away with. Losing brand descriptors and certain points of reference forces people to experiment a little more than they usually might.
What’s your house shot?
Nettle gimlets, without a doubt. They’re currently not on the menu, but they’re a firm favourite with regulars, so we always have our homemade nettle cordial to hand. Trying to explain to our foreign guests quite what a nettle is always a good laugh, too.
We’re working with the guys over at Drinks Factory to fine-tune our all-new Autumn/Winter menu.
Plus we’ve introduced a lovely little afternoon tea. Watch this space!
The Secret Ingredient: The Köln Aromatic Tincture
For all of its fancy serves and ornate garnishes, it’s easy to forget that gin is, in essence, just perfume. Zetter know this, and their Köln Aromatic Tincture is a shining example of their parfumerie approach to
The tincture has a misleadingly in-your-face boldness on the nose that quicky mellows once it’s thrown into the mix of a Martini. Just two drops of the stuff are enough to turn the drink on its head: Top notes of bergamot and lavender surrender to heart notes of lemon peel and grapefruit zest. It’s a welcome dose of flavour theatrics that imparts a dry bite to an otherwise wet Martini. Thats their preferred house style, and you know what? We’re totally on board with that. EJ
Words by Will HALBERT
Image Credits, Addie Chin